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Home Grown: Thomas Affleck’s Advocacy for Regional Identity in the American South, 1848–1868

James Schissel, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Junior Fellow 2010–2011

I have devoted my time at Dumbarton Oaks to doctoral research. My dissertation examines the nineteenth-century American plant trade and gardening advice manuals as methods for advocating regional identity, and specifically addresses the American South through the career of nurseryman, horticultural advisor, and agricultural reformer Thomas Affleck (1812–1868). Dumbarton Oaks, through its extraordinary collection and its tireless library staff, has provided an essential frame for understanding Affleck's work. Because the collection brings together numerous examples of early American gardening advice manuals and almanacs, and contains the works and catalogs of nineteenth-century nurserymen, an examination of Affleck's contemporaries has enabled me to position his work in American and transatlantic contexts. Holdings directed at specific geographic regions have been particularly helpful for analyzing southern works as either anomalies or as part of a larger American pattern of regionalism.

The scholarly and physical environments of Dumbarton Oaks, along with the gift of uninterrupted time, have also made my fellowship fruitful in terms of writing, resulting in two conference papers, with one making connections between Affleck's immigrant status and the spirit of his work, and the other assessing Affleck's plantation kitchen garden advice as a source of labor history. Time at Dumbarton Oaks has refined my work, in large part, because of daily interactions and stimulating conversations with the fellows, staff, and visiting scholars of the Garden and Landscape Studies, as well as Director of Gardens Gail Griffin who has generously directed me to helpful resources both in and outside the Dumbarton Oaks community. And, as a landscape historian, it has been pure pleasure to read, write, and walk in a Beatrix Farrand garden each day.